STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: John Allen Nichols
BY ELLIE ISBELL, SOPHOMORE/AG COMMUNICATIONS
John Allen Nichols grew up in suburban Birmingham with no direct connection to agriculture. His family has been an Auburn family for three generations, so the choice to come to Auburn was a no-brainer. But why did he choose the College of Agriculture when he had no background in agriculture? John Allen came to Auburn as a freshman with one specific goal in mind: dental school. He was specifically recruited to the poultry science department since the pre-professional track of poultry prepares students to continue on to professional school after graduation. Poultry science also appealed to John Allen because of the availability of scholarships associated with the major. Although his parents support him through college, he wanted to help out with expenses in any way possible. Poultry science also has a high job placement rate, so John Allen felt certain that he could find another job if dental school did not work out. He also knew that a poultry science degree would stand out among typical applicants for dental school. All things considered, poultry science provided a straighter road to dental school than other degree options and also provided many other benefits. However, as John Allen became involved in different organizations within the College of Ag, his plans began to change. He became involved in Block and Bridle, Poultry Science Club and Ag Ambassadors, and by the end of his freshman year he knew dental school was no longer a goal.
John Allen recalls this life change as a “slow, confusing process.” However, he was fortunate to have the guidance of several adults in the agriculture industry. His junior year, John Allen participated in the Agriculture Alumni Mentoring Program. Brian Hardin, the head of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Governmental Affairs Department, was John Allen’s mentor. Hardin was the first person to encourage John Allen to apply for law school after he graduated from Auburn. John Allen did not take this suggestion lightly, and he began to think about this important decision and talk it over with others. He also received support from Associate Dean Paul Patterson, which helped solidify his decision to apply to law schools. He now has almost completed all of his law school applications and should hear back from them this spring. John Allen says he “wants to eventually practice agricultural law to protect and serve the farmers of our state.”
The summer after his junior year, John Allen had the opportunity to intern with the National Turkey Federation in Washington, D.C. The National Turkey Federation is a trade organization that represents more than 95 percent of turkey producers in the United States. They also represent a substantial portion of the allied industries. John Allen lived in a converted row house three blocks from the Capitol and took the Metro to work. He worked full, 9-5 days on Capitol Hill each weekday. Throughout the summer he worked on compiling notes on several issues, specifically high pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and waters of the U.S. (WOTUS). Towards the end of his internship, he was asked to compile those notes into more organized issue papers. Though the papers went through a heavy editing process by his supervisors, John Allen was proud to see his work handed out to members of the federation and then, in turn, handed to members of Congress. Other than the work lessons John Allen learned while interning in D.C., he learned that he specifically is much more interested in working in state government than the federal government.
However, his time in D.C. was not all work and no play. On the weekends, John Allen had the opportunity to sightsee in the city and along much of the East Coast. One of his favorite moments from the summer was seeing the Triple Crown won in person at the Belmont Stakes. He still has the stub from his two-dollar bet on American Pharaoh, the winning horse.
In addition to being a member of several organizations within the College of Agriculture, John Allen serves as the president of the Ag Ambassadors. John Allen says this position is an opportunity to develop as a leader and has forced him to become a bit more responsible.
Going to law school with an undergraduate degree in poultry science might not be every kid from suburban Birmingham’s goal, but John Allen has completely taken advantage of the diverse opportunities the College of Agriculture has to offer in order to pursue his dreams!
Ellie Isbell is a sophomore studying agricultural communications and is originally from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. She is an Ag Ambassador, Auburn Athletics Marketing Department intern and Project Uplift mentor, in addition to being the editor of War Eagle Words.